Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder (VRSD)

The terms "antivaccinationist", "antivax", or "antivaxxer" are thrown around quite often when speaking of vaccine conspiracy theorists, but it can sometimes be difficult to explain what these terms mean.  Obviously we know there is a very small group of anti-science individuals who sit within their echo chamber while making wild claims about the "dangers" of vaccines, but is there any way to classify these individuals into groups?  Are there characteristics that seem to be common among them (other than an obvious tendency to believe in conspiracy theories, a distrust of the government and "big pharma", and total ignorance of the scientific method)?

Thankfully the fine folks over at Autism News Beat have developed a (tongue in cheek) list of five Pervasive Anti-Science Disorders which they roll up under the classification of Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorders or VRSDs.

According to Autism News Beat, "Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term applied to individuals who mislead others, through spoken and/or written communications, about the risk of vaccines and vaccination".

For those of us who have interacted with these antivaxxers in the past, this list of disorders is spot on.  The full text can be found here:  Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorders (VRSD).

The first disorder described here is called "Crank Disorder", and several of the characteristics listed clearly apply to Lowell Hubbs.  Starting with item A, sub-item 1, the belief that vaccines have never been proven effective, the belief that it is better to “get the disease” than the vaccine, and the belief that all disease can be prevented by proper nutrition, exercise, and chakra balancing (or in his case multiple appointments with a Chiropractor) are all beliefs held by Mr. Hubbs.

As to sub-item two, Mr. Hubbs has relied upon, and continues to rely upon,, and on a daily basis.  He likely has relied upon Rescue Angels at some point, but it gets difficult to recall all the quack websites he references since practically every comment he writes includes at least a dozen references to the same information that is replicated on all of the antivaxxer websites.

Moving on to sub-item three, Mr. Hubbs has also displayed preoccupation with the Amish (even when information has been provided showing that focus to be misguided), and he has relied upon stereotyped and repetitive anti-vaccine talking points.

Moving on to item B, clearly Mr. Hubbs has abnormal functioning in all of the following areas: (1) providing relevant links in web comments, (2) proper use of capital letters (3) admitting a mistake. 

Diagnosis: There is no doubt Mr. Hubbs suffers from Crank Disorder.

The next VRSD is Handley Disoder, and it seems clear Mr. Hubbs does suffer from several of the symptoms such as stubborn adherence to baseless ideas even when those ideas contradict one another and an inflated sense of importance.  However I cannot find any evidence related to Mr. Hubbs' head circumference and from what I can tell he never had any purposeful reasoning skills thus it would be inaccurate to suggest he lost them at some point.

Diagnosis: Undetermined.  It could go either way although clearly Crank Disorder is a more accurate diagnosis thus far.

The third VRSD on the list is called Reason Disintegrative Disorder.  This one doesn't appear to apply to Mr. Hubbs since it would have required him to have a normal understanding of scientific method at some point, and clearly that has never been the case.  It also would have required him to previously understand the difference between correlation and causation which are concepts Mr. Hubbs has obviously never understood... and continues to misunderstand.  The fact that Mr. Hubbs cannot recognize his own biases is icing on the cake so to speak.

The twist comes in item C because clearly Mr. Hubbs relies upon vacuous appeals to authority, shows a preponderance to rely upon strawman arguments, and with his habit of avoiding questions via goalpost relocation, clearly he suffers from qualitative impairment in answering relevant questions.  However even with all of these symptoms being displayed it seems the lack of definite evidence within the first two points puts this one just outside of a plausible diagnosis.

Diagnosis: Unlikely.  Appears Mr. Hubbs's VRSD is better accounted for by Crank Disorder.

The fourth VRSD is called Jay's Disorder.  This is somewhat tricky because item A of Jay's Disorder requires two of the following three points: (1) marked impairment in the use of the empirical evidence, (2) failure to develop appropriate professional peer relationships, or (3) a preference for personal observations and anecdotes over data and evidence.

The problem here is that Mr. Hubbs doesn't appear to have any professional peer relationships because he is not even in the scientific, medical, or research field.  His coworkers may be well versed in how to square up short ribs or how to slice back bacon from a hog carcass, but it is doubtful they know anything about vaccines.  Also Mr. Hubbs has not been able to rely upon personal observations but rather he relies upon the personal observations of others.  In effect much of what Mr. Hubbs professes to be factual is actually second or third hand knowledge.  He tends to paint himself as a messenger, but without any first hand experience in the subject matter it would be disingenuous to suggest he meets the criteria for this particular VRSD.

Of course looking at item B we can verify that Mr. Hubbs often confuses what might be true with what is proven, and he does appear to have a persistent preoccupation with junk science, but alas it isn't enough for a confident diagnosis.

Diagnosis: Unlikely.  Once again Crank Disorder is a much better fit.

The final VRSD is "Pervasive Rejectionism Disorder Not Otherwise Specified" (PRD-NOS) and is essentially a bucket where those suffering from Pervasive Anti-Science Disorders who cannot be clearly described via one of the other VRSDs would fall into.  As we already have more than sufficient reason to be confident with the Crank Disorder diagnosis, PRD-NOS would not apply in this case.

Diagnosis: Not Applicable.

Of course as I was reading about VRSDs I stumbled upon an update of sorts.  Aspie Warrior over at his "In Your Face" blog has posted a slightly modified version which is being updated as the criteria for diagnosing VRSDs are expanded and refined.  His updated version can be found here.

Of interest are some additional criteria for diagnosing Crank Disorder including a belief that vaccines cause autism, as well as reliance upon websites such as, and  It goes on to refer to the idolisation or obsession of Andrew Wakefield and subscribing to absurd and unproven conspiracy theories and paranoia (say for example claiming 9/11 was an inside job, or claiming that "black hat hackers" were out to get you).

Since these all apply to Mr. Hubbs, it would seem to solidify the prior diagnosis that defined Mr. Hubbs's condition as Crank Disorder.  That being said, the updated "Pervasive Rejectionism Disorder Not Otherwise Specified" specifically calls out prominent examples of those who may be suffering from this particular VRSD, and the list of examples includes our very own Lowell Hubbs.  It would seem Mr. Hubbs's obsessive behavior of posting endless comments anywhere and everywhere coupled with his belief that the person who posts the most comments automatically wins the golden debate trophy has earned him some recognition.

Sadly, Mr. Hubbs likely believes this is a badge of honor.  More power to him.

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